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Monkeypox FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions: Monkeypox

What is monkeypox?

Monkeypox is a rare disease caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. The monkeypox virus is part of the same family of viruses as the variola virus, the virus that causes smallpox. Monkeypox symptoms are similar to smallpox symptoms, but milder, and monkeypox is rarely fatal. Monkeypox is not related to chickenpox.

What are signs and symptoms of monkeypox?

Sign and symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills
  • Exhaustion
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)
  • A rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) but could also be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.
    • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
    • The rash can look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

You may experience all or only a few symptoms

  • Sometimes, people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms. Others only experience a rash.
  • Most people with monkeypox will get a rash.
  • Some people have developed a rash before (or without) other symptoms.

Monkeypox symptoms usually start within 3 weeks of exposure to the virus. If someone has flu-like symptoms, they will usually develop a rash 1-4 days later. Monkeypox can be spread from the time symptoms start until the rash has healed, all scabs have fallen off, and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

How does it spread?

Monkeypox spreads in a few ways.

  • Monkeypox can spread to anyone through close, personal, often skin-to-skin contact, including:
    • Direct contact with monkeypox rash, scabs, or body fluids from a person with monkeypox.
    • Touching objects, fabrics (clothing, bedding, or towels), and surfaces that have been used by someone with monkeypox.
    • Contact with respiratory secretions.
  • This direct contact can happen during intimate contact, including:
    • Oral, anal, and vaginal sex or touching the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) of a person with monkeypox.
    • Hugging, massage, and kissing.
    • Prolonged face-to-face contact.
    • Touching fabrics and objects during sex that were used by a person with monkeypox and that have not been disinfected, such as bedding, towels, fetish gear, and sex toys.
  • A pregnant person can spread the virus to their fetus through the placenta.

It’s also possible for people to get monkeypox from infected animals, either by being scratched or bitten by the animal or by preparing or eating meat or using products from an infected animal. A person with monkeypox can spread it to others from the time symptoms start until the rash has fully healed and a fresh layer of skin has formed. The illness typically lasts 2-4 weeks.

Scientists are still researching:

  • If the virus can be spread when someone has no symptoms
  • How often monkeypox is spread through respiratory secretions, or when a person with monkeypox symptoms might be more likely to spread the virus through respiratory secretions.
  • Whether monkeypox can be spread through semen, vaginal fluids, urine, or feces.

How can I protect myself and others?

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with people who have a rash that looks like monkeypox.
    • Do not touch the rash or scabs of a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not kiss, hug, cuddle or have sex with someone with monkeypox.
  • Avoid contact with objects and materials that a person with monkeypox has used.
    • Do not share eating utensils or cups with a person with monkeypox.
    • Do not handle or touch the bedding, towels, or clothing of a person with monkeypox.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer, especially before eating or touching your face and after you use the bathroom.

In Central and West Africa, avoid contact with animals that can spread monkeypox virus, usually rodents and primates. Also, avoid sick or dead animals, as well as bedding or other materials they have touched.

Who is most at risk?

All people can acquire monkeypox.

What should I do if I think I was exposed?

If you think you were exposed to monkeypox, immediately contact your health care provider or the Department of Public Health in your community. If you believe you were exposed to monkeypox while at work, contact Employee Health at 916-843-9286 or 916-843-7122. Clinicians, please also review the monkeypox guidance that Infectious Disease sent last Monday. 

Does VANCHCS offer monkeypox vaccines to patients or employees?

According to the CDC, the U.S currently has a limited supply of JYNNEOS, although more is expected in the coming weeks and months. VANCHCS has a small supply of Jynneos, an FDA-approved smallpox vaccine that provides protection against monkeypox. This vaccine is intended for those at the highest risk for monkeypox or those who have had known exposure.

Where can I go for more information?